Extreme adventurer John Cantor in Alaska.
Extreme adventurer John Cantor in Alaska. Contributed

Beating his inner voice

NOOSA'S John Cantor was in one of the loneliest and most intimidating places on earth - sleep deprived with his inner demon stalking him, more threatening than the wild grizzlies roaming those parts.

His tortured achilles tendons were screaming for him to give up his obsession to cross the Brooks Range in Alaska solo.

The 27-year-old is about to relive becoming just the fifth person (and the first non-American) to walk and kayak 1600km in his quest.

Tomorrow night the ABC's Australian Story will retrace his personal redemption after three epic Brooks failures in the past six years.

"It's a very intimidating place. You're dropped off by bush plane hundreds of kilometres from the nearest road, house or town," John said. "So there's no easing your way into it.

"The first four days there was a voice in my head constantly telling me to quit."

John said he knew this voice quite well from his past attempts. He knew he needed to block it out and just keep going.

"The first three times I had seen the expedition as one big challenge, whereas this time I broke it down into little battles," John said.

"So that when I told myself to quit, I was able to just able to go over each element and realise there's no reason to quit.

"The achilles tendonitis started on the fifth day and from then on I was just in agony for the whole expedition."

John mustered the mental strength to refuse the past easy options that he had found so hard to live with.

"Six years of my life ... I'd put so much into this," he said.

"One of the mantras I kept saying over and over was 'I've suffered so much why not suffer a little bit more and make it all worthwhile'."

He said he made the mistake of over-training for his first three attempts.

On the first attempt he said he wrecked his chances by trying to put body fat on his lean 68kg body.

"Most long distance expeditioners put on a large amount of fat - but I wrecked my liver from eating too much fatty foods.

"The next two attempts I had were just a waste of time because I had tendonitis in my knees from over-training.

"I had the feeling after the third attempt that I would go back there one day, but I didn't know if it would be five years or 10 years."

He moved to Sydney to study media arts production and after four months of not training too much, his body started feeling good again.

"I started flirting with the idea again."

So that's how he found himself way out of his comfort zone on July 4 this year.

John's story will be aired on ABC1's Australian Story at 8pm tomorrow.

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